Community Wind Handbook

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Community Wind Handbook

Community Wind Handbook Introduction

The Sandywoods community in Rhode Island features a community wind project. Photo from Stefan Dominioni, NREL 26490

Community wind projects are locally owned developments consisting of turbines that can vary in number, type, and size. Historically, these projects have been utilized to supply local electricity for a variety of applications, including schools, hospitals, businesses, farms, ranches, or community facilities. Rural electric cooperatives or municipal utilities have also developed their own community wind projects to diversify electricity supplies. Community wind owners may also be local individuals who form independent power producer groups or limited liability corporations to sell the power the turbines produce to a local electricity supplier.[1]

Locally owned community wind projects create even more of an economic opportunity for those involved than conventional wind farms owned by companies with limited local ties. Compared to conventional wind power projects, community wind projects have a greater impact in terms of economic benefits because of two key factors: the project being locally owned and overall project profitability. Research indicates that “construction-period employment impacts are 1.1 to 1.3 times higher and operations-period impacts are 1.1 to 2.8 times higher for community wind versus conventional wind power projects.”[2] The level of increased economic benefits is determined by the availability and use of local, qualified labor and supplies, as well as the ownership structure and financing details.[1]

Why Community Wind Projects?

Because community wind projects are locally owned, residents can influence the siting and sizing of projects and ensure that local interests are honored.[1] The local community can develop guidelines for establishing local ordinances, ensuring that future projects will follow regulations established for setbacks, sound levels, and aesthetics of future wind projects.

With the combination of no fuel costs and relatively low operating costs, owners of community wind projects can confidently predict the price that they will pay for energy throughout the lifetime of the project.[1] Community wind projects produce energy that can be used directly or sold to local utilities at a fixed rate through a power purchase agreement, providing long-term energy price stabilization. In areas where importing fuel results in high electricity costs, developing community wind projects can stabilize or lower energy costs.

Plans for siting new energy projects in a community—whether oil and gas wells, nuclear power plants, solar farms, or wind farms—are often met with opposition. Community wind projects garner high levels of support from people living in nearby communities. Increased local acceptance and public support may result from the involvement of local residents as investors or shareholders in these developments.[3] [4] [5] [6] The variety of different applications for which community wind projects can be used may also be a factor in garnering support for the project from local residents.

Community wind projects generally operate on a smaller scale than utility-scale wind farms, so they may not require transmission upgrades. Most community wind projects can be easily connected to the distribution grid.[1]

Electricity production from wind turbines does not pollute the water we drink or the air we breathe, so wind energy means less smog, less acid rain, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Because it is a clean energy source, wind energy reduces health care and environmental costs associated with air pollution. Also, wind energy requires no mining, drilling, or transportation of fuel and it poses no risk of large-scale environmental contamination.[1]

A majority of community wind projects are located in rural areas where water conservation is a serious concern. Community wind energy can become part of the solution when examining energy production and potential water savings. Wind energy requires minimal amounts of water, whereas thermal generators are among the largest consumers of water in the United States.[1] By diversifying the local energy supply, communities can help manage the water supply risks on a local level.

This handbook was designed to provide guidance for the siting and development activities required to develop a wind project in your community. We've divided this handbook into [small] ($10,000 - $100,000) and [large] ($2 million+) projects. Following the steps outlined in this handbook will help with the development of a successful project.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6  "Rynne, S.; et al. American Planning Association. Planning for Wind Energy."
  2.  "Lantz, E.; Tegen, S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Economic Development Impacts of Community Wind Projects: A Review and Empirical Evaluation."
  3.  "Jones, C.; Eiser, R. Identifying Predictors of Attitudes Towards Local Onshore Development with Reference to an English Case Study."
  4.  "Zoellner, J.; Schweizer-Ries, P.; Wemheuer, C. Public Acceptance of Renewable Energies: Results from Case Studies in Germany."
  5.  "McLaren Loring, J. Wind Energy Planning in England, Wales and Denmark: Factors Influencing Project Success."
  6.  "Devine-Wright, P. Beyond NIMBYism: Towards an Integrated Framework for Understanding Public Perceptions of Wind Energy."